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3 years ago
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Ever Wondered How Hair Color Works?

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You may be asking yourself, should I color my hair? And women are coloring their hair more often than in years past. It has become as common as polishing your nails. Between highlights, single process and double process, there are a so many new techniques and  options out there for you to choose from to get the perfect hair color for you. But, sometimes you wonder what you are getting yourself into. You might have wondered things like, how is this going to effect the health of my hair?

So, have you ever wondered how hair color works?  All hair color experts can tell you what happens when you color your hair. So we thought we would break down the basic mechanics of hair coloring and some different coloring methods. Is it really as damaging as some say? Let’s start with the basics.

What is the Actual Substance of Hair? 

Hair is mainly keratin, the same protein found in your skin and fingernails. The natural color of hair depends on the ratio and quantities of two other proteins, eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Eumelanin is responsible for brown to black hair shades, while phaeomelanin is responsible for golden blond, ginger, and red colors. The absence of either type of melanin produces white/gray hair.

Here is a basic diagram of what a hair strand looks like:


  • Medulla – is the innermost layer of the hair shaft. The medulla is the nearly invisible layer that serves as the pith or marrow of the hair. Scientists are still uncertain about the exact role of the medulla, but they speculate that it is primarily an air space that is more prominent in grey or white hair.
  • Cortex – this is the middle part of the hair strand, which contains moisture and melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives your hair its color.
  • Cuticle – this is the protective outer layer of the hair strand, which actually determines how healthy your hair looks. If the cuticle is smooth, your hair looks silky and shiny. If the cuticle is raised, your hair looks more dry and damaged.

What is The Best Hair Color Method For You?

  • Permanent Hair Color – This is a two step process. When professional hair color is applied to the hair, ammonia is used to cause the cuticle to ‘open up’ and let the hair color in. Then, peroxide, oxidizes the hair and  penetrates into the hair cortex to remove your existing hair color. Once that happens, the new color is left in your hair cortex, leaving it the color you and your hairdresser have chosen. Conditioner is used to close the cuticle back to seal the new color in. This is also the process used when bleaching or lightening your hair, except the melanin is dissolved away until you get the lightened shade that you decide and your natural hair color cannot be replaced until it grows back in.
  • Semi-permanent Hair Color – Semi-permanent hair color does not have ammonia or peroxide, and simply adds tiny color molecules to the cuticle of your hair without dramatically changing your original hair color. It is a much more translucent and gentle coloring process which usually lasts 4-6 weeks. Since these molecules are small, they eventually escape the cuticle and the color fades out over time and shampooing.
  • Demi-permanent Hair Color – This hair color method lasts a little longer than semi-permanent, about 8-12 weeks, has no ammonia, but a small amount of peroxide. This type of hair color coats each hair strand with color and creates larger molecules in the hair cortex, which is why it is much more opaque and  lasts longer.

Hair coloring is a very unique process. When you decide to color your hair, at Salon F, we recommend that you start with a semi-permanent hair color if possible. They are so much healthier and easier to change if you decide you don’t like your new color. They are less damaging than permanent hair colors. Permanent colors that go lighter than your natural color are the most harmful, especially if they are used too often. Although conditioners do help seal the cuticle after the coloring process is finished, the hair strand will not revert to the condition it was in originally without your help. If you color your hair, make sure to keep it moisturized, avoid over-using hot tools and use hair products designed specifically for color treated hair.

So, now that you know how it all works, it might sound kind of complicated. Unless you are an experienced professional,  hair coloring can be tricky. Even some professionals have a hard time getting exactly the color you want.  There are so many variables that can effect how hair color works. Since it takes years to understand all of these variables, it is best to trust your hairdresser in order to achieve that beautiful hair color that will make you love your hair.

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